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A Shining Example

International Concierge Gloria ‘Glo’ Leitao brightens up the day for customers and co-workers alike

Author A. AVERYL RE

FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES call Gloria Leitao “Glo.” The nickname is a fitting one, considering how the international concierge goes about her job at New York/Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), bringing a kind of shine to whatever she does.

“When people have experience, they might become complacent about their work, but that’s not the case with Gloria,” says Michael Mitolo, EWR’s airport operations supervisor. “She’s enthusiastic and energetic, and she projects that to her co-workers. Gloria always looks at the upside.”

Leitao has been with the airline since 1987, working in a number of customer service positions both behind the scenes and on the front lines. Twelve years ago, she found her niche when she joined the Concierge Program, and today Leitao serves on an elite team of 52 concierges who handle primarily international BusinessFirst customers.

“Our customers are premium-paying customers,” Leitao says. “When you’re paying that much to travel, you expect a service that meets that dollar amount. We uphold the integrity of the BusinessFirst cabin, no matter the situation.”

In addition to meeting the needs of passengers at the airport, the concierges monitor inbound and outbound flights to make sure passengers make their connecting flights, rebooking itineraries as needed to ensure each passenger has a smooth travel experience. Each concierge is responsible for as many as 200 passengers a day among the flights they’ve been assigned out of the 100 or so that go through Newark daily in peak season.

Leitao says patience, a great attitude and the ability to listen well are her biggest assets in doing her job. “You have to keep things in perspective,” she says. “I’m grateful for everything I have — I’m grateful I can come to work, walk to my gate, support my customers. They may tell me about problems they have, and I hear them out. A customer may have a line behind him, but at that moment, he has my full attention for as long as it takes. You can be positive or you can be negative. Positive is a better state to be in, so I choose to be positive.”

Because she works the same flights from day to day, Leitao has gotten to know many loyal customers who fly regularly, and considers them friends. Yet one of her favorite job experiences involved someone who not only doesn’t fly United regularly, but also would not be strictly considered a passenger.

“We had a Catholic monsignor coming in from Honolulu. My supervisor told me, ‘I don’t know what he needs, but if anyone can handle it, it would be you.’ So I went off to find the monsignor,” Leitao recalls. “He told me he was traveling with a reliquary of St. Thérèse of the Little Flower, and ‘she’ could not be left alone. Well, I broke out in tears. I asked my supervisor if I could sit with her.”

The monsignor had traveled with the reliquary throughout Guam and the Polynesian region, and was now passing through Newark on his way back to France. Leitao stayed in cargo with the remains of the saint until it was time to meet the monsignor at the airport lounge and escort him to his flight to Paris.

“I wasn’t able to upgrade him,” Leitao says, “but he said, ‘If St. Thérèse can fly cargo, I can fly coach.’

“It was the most amazing assignment ever given to me,” she says. “That’s what my job does for me: Every day, I come in and I never know what I’m going to do or who I’m going to meet. It’s like a new adventure every day. That’s what makes every day exciting.”

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